The cucumber. Oh, the cucumber. It's one of those veggies that seems so commonplace and familiar, until you start to learn about all the different varieties and uses for them... there are tons! The two main varieties are slicing (ie. English cucumber) and pickling (like Kirby's), although there's also a third category called 'burpless', which is a species bred to prevent - you guessed it - burping. Who knew!
We've been receiving some gorgeous varieties in our CSA box this season and trying to find fun things to do with them. Veggie boredom = no good. So far, we've experimented with a pickled cucumber salad, vegan Greek salad, spiralizing into noodles for a raw pasta, blending into smoothies and green juice, and slicing them to top with raw treenut cheese.
Nutritionally, cucumbers are valuable for a number of reasons. They're tremendously hydrating: if you've ever left a cucumber to pickle in some salt for 10 minutes, you've seen how much water is extracted! They offer almost 20% of our recommended daily intake of Vitamin K, and while another great source of Vitamin K is grass, I think cucumber tastes better. It's also packed with powerful lignans: plant compounds that have been shown to reduce cancer risk, promote anti-inflammation and act as antioxidants in the body. Basically, the compounds in cucumber take the brunt of the force from toxins and free radicals, leaving us less prone to cellular damage and disease. Cool. Thanks, cucumber. Plus, it's low on the glycemic index (no blood sugar spike!), it's great for vegan and paleo diets, and it's just so versatile: we have little excuse not to work it into the day!
Cucumbers' thin skin - which we often eat - doesn't provide much protection from chemicals and pesticides, so limit your exposure to these by buying organic as often as possible.
By far, my favorite use for these little guys in our kitchen adventures this summer has been this soup: a blend of fresh herbs and hydrating cucumber + a little crunch of chopped almonds on top. It's super simple to put together and terrifically summery... especially if you find yourself loaded up with excess cucumber from the CSA or farmers market.
This recipe was inspired by The New Greenmarket Cookbook. I made some adaptations to a recipe by Kenneth Wiss of Diner and put a little spin on this based on the other goodies we had in our crisper from the market. Grab whatever fresh herbs you have handy (or that you can source -- does your city have an Urban Farm program like this one?). I'm a firm believer that we should make the most of these gorgeous plants before summer wraps up! :)
You'll want to start making this at least an hour before you intend to serve it. It's so much nicer chilled, and you'll need at least half an hour in the fridge to get that nice coolness all the way through.
Gather together your cucumbers, fresh herbs, olive oil and limes. It's a simple as tossing everything into the blender, adding a little water, adjusting the spices to taste and setting in the fridge to chill. This should take no more than 10 minutes. Bonus.
While your soup chills, chop your toppings. The Greenmarket Cookbook suggests toasted almonds (we used raw, but toasted is best for anyone with a thyroid condition), fresh berries, watermelon, yogurt of your choosing, or other fresh herbs (we used a sprig of mint in each, along with a little sprinkle of fleur de sel).
Divide into cups before or after you chill, top with your garnish and serve. These made an appearance at our GMO OMG viewing vegan dinner party a couple of weeks back and went over well! The leftovers also kept just fine in the fridge and made for a beautiful green breakfast the next morning. Give it a shot!
Happy blending, all!
- 5 medium cucumbers, washed and coarsely chopped - whichever variety you like (we used sweet greens)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice from fresh lemons
- 1/4 cup lime juice from fresh limes
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- large handful fresh basil
- large handful fresh mint, plus a little extra for garnish
- large handful fresh tarragon
- a pinch of fresh ginger
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 tsp chopped raw almonds (or toasted, if you prefer)
- 1. Combine all ingredients except almonds and water in a blender. Blend for about 30 seconds until the mixture is even.
- 2. With the blender still running, pour in water 2 tbsp at a time until desired consistency is reached. Think 'yogurt' as you blend... that's the consistency you're after.
- 3. Transfer to a bowl (or several small serving bowls) and place in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. While soup chills, chop almonds. Set aside.
- 4. Once chilled and ready to serve, top with almonds and a mint leaf.
- Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a day.